With the revelation that developing nations like Nigeria lose N40billion annually of governments’ assets to corruption, experts have opined that deploying technology appropriately could help curb corruption in both public and private sectors of the economy, writes NKECHI ISAAC.
Corruption has been cited as the major societal ill that’s under developing the Nigerian society and economy despite its enormous natural and human resource potentials. With a population of over 180 million people and a projected population of 400 million in 2050 standing just behind the United States and China, Nigeria continues to grapple with poor economic status.
Corruption is predominate in every sector of the society. It is promoted as normal in government institutions, ministries, departments and agencies of the federal government, public and private sector.
It has particularly eaten deep into the nation’s workforce, federal governments MDAs. Corruption in public service is always associated mainly to theft and misappropriation of funds. It also refers to pilfering of government’s assets at all levels. From furniture to computers, streetlamps, cars. This affects a sizable portion of government’s revenue.
A recent study by the World Bank explained that developing countries like Nigeria lose about N40 billion in government assets.
Despite these obvious challenges, experts have opined that Information Technology (IT), which is the current biggest thing in the world, can be deployed to tackle Nigeria’s seemingly impossible challenge.
Speaking during the 11th edition of the E-Nigeria conference, exhibition and awards, the flagship event of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) with the theme ‘Promoting a digital economy in an era of disruptive technologies through effective regulations’ in Abuja, the pioneer chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Malam Nuhu Ribadu, in his paper presentation ‘The role of disruptive technologies in curtailing corruption’ said disruptive technologies presents opportunities the nation can explore in tackling corruption.
Ribadu pointed out the dangers and effects of corruption on Nigeria and its economy, highlighting the reality of the endless war between forces who are for and against corruption, adding disruptive technologies have the ability to help Nigeria combat corruption.
“For this reason we have to explore every available means to deepen the fight against corruption. Today, there are a number of disruptive technologies that can be deployed effectively in containing corruption. Disruptive technologies have revolutionised the world of information technology and supersedes existing technologies. The key disruptive technologies in the current world include block chain, internet of things, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, 3D printing and big data analytics,” he said.
Listing how the technologies can be deployed in the fight against corruption, the former EFCC boss argued that IoTs can be used to counter this steady seemingly impossible challenge as it provides a cheap watch dog, saying government and public institutions can take advantage of IoTs for real time monitoring of assets, adding this technology can also help law enforcement agencies and those with supervisory roles with ease of security using the embedded GPs functionality.
According to him, you can also use IoTs on bonds to carry out surveillance in the area of internet, pointing out the technology is increasingly popular and about 200 billion devices are expected to be in use by 2020 according to an internet corporation.
Speaking of AI, Ribadu explained that AI can easily be described as the simulation of computers to think like humans, saying the role of an AI system is to make computing devices to become intellectual even to humans, adding Nigeria can use artificial intelligence to contain corruption by developing intelligence from available big data and identifying data that can be classified as correct behaviour.
He further urged MDAs to explore opportunities offered by the popular block chain technologies to deepen transparency and tackle the challenge of corruption in government, public service and private sector.
“Block chain, many people think of bitcoin, cyber currencies when they hear the term block chain, however, even though block chain is used for those applications. A block chain represents empirical transactions. The transactions ensures authenticity, it can be programmed to record the voucher of every transactions. The advantages of blockcahin includes transparency, decentralisation. I encourage different MDA’s and public services to explore the options of using block chain technology as a means of preserving the integrity of their operations,” he added.
Despite Ribadu’s suggestions, many government agencies do not share his sentiments in investing in or deploying technologies like block chain in addressing issues in the country.
It is on record that ace government institutions like the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), The Senate and a host of other institutions are sceptical about the technology and have sternly warned Nigerians to desist from investing their monies or encouraging block chain.
Making a case for cryptocurrency, block chain technologies, the chief operating officer of TSP Capital Limited, a foreign portfolio investment advisory firm, Mr Peter Elofusim, in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP said the nation was missing great opportunities by approaching such world renowned technologies with scepticism, urging Nigeria’s financial regulators to take time and study the enormous potentials the technology offers and encourage its development or risk being left behind in the current blockchain revolution sweeping through the global space.
Elofusim said: “The CBN and other financial regulators should stop treating cryptocurrency with the attitude of arrogance rather they should settle down to study the block chain technology. They should carry out a holistic study of the whole gamut of the block chain technology which cryptocurrency is a part of. There are so many potentials and benefits of this technology and it would be unfair to embrace other technologies which are an offshoot of the technology and push cryptocurrency aside. If we do that as a country then we’ll wake up one day and discover we’ve missed out on this revolution.”
Speaking on the fluidity of crypos and the allegations from some quarters that it is used to finance terrorism, Elofusim maintained that it is disingenuous for people to say digital monies should not be promoted because of such assumptions, stressing that fiat money, currency, is the bane of terrorism.
He said: “Firstly, it is impossible for a billionaire to turn to a pauper overnight as people assume because of crash in cryptocurrency. Every wise businessman cannot put all his eggs in one basket, in investment you must spread or share out your risks. For instance, you cannot say because Apple is selling its stock then you put all your money in its shares. No, you must spread your risks. In investing in cryptocurrency too, investors should do the due diligence by asking for the white paper which tells you the developers and theme of the currency. the need it is supposed to meet to ensure there’s no sudden deep in its value.
“Cryptocurrency investment is just like every other investment. There are always deeps in investments, stocks take a deep, even economies do also, take the case of Brexit where Britain lost 25 to 30 per cent of its value in just one day. Meanwhile two days ago cryptocurrency witnessed a surge $20 billion in a day. That is monumental.”
According to him, “Fiat money, rather than cryptocurrency is used to finance the ‘dark crime web’. As for terrorism, reports have shown that various raids at terrorist strongholds unearth hard currencies like Pounds, Dollars, Euros and the likes.”
The TSP Capital boss urged financial institutions to borrow a leaf from the West and other developed regions by finding ways of collaborating with coin miners and developing a sort of Coinbase which is act as Know your Customer (KYC) base by tying coins to regular accounts of people so the movement of the coins can be tracked at every point in time.
Similarly, the CEO and founder of Chain Africa, Mr Olaitan Oyebola, urged potential blockchain investors to do their research very well before going into cryptocurrency business.
Oyebola said: “It depends on individual ability to study the market, that’s why nobody should wake up and because a friend said this is cryptocurrency you can do his or that and the you just jump into cryptocurrency business. No, you have to know the fundamentals, read the market. It’s like stock exchange you want to buy low and sell high. You will lose money if you don’t know how to buy high and sell low. I personally do not advice people to do bit trading which is buying low today and selling high tomorrow. Its very good to do long time trading because there is no way you can buy the currency now and it would not grow except it has no community backing it up. So, people need to know what they are going into before they enter cryptocurrency.
“Potential investors should do their own research, a thorough research in any cryptocurrency they pick. It’s not about jumping into any cryptocurrency but studying what it is out for. The real use cases, it must have been for a particular purpose. If you’re okay with a particular purpose then you can invest in it and follow the community, the trend. It is very interesting.”
Explaining how bitcoin developed for a specific purpose works, the chief executive officer and founder of CoinMD, Tom McMurrain, explained that CoinMD, United States firm, recently introduced smart currency to boost the healthcare system in Nigeria.
McMurrain emphasised that CoinMD is a universal healthcare marketplace that is about traditional medicine, natural medicine, health clubs, massage and yoga, health and medical tourism, veterinary services, among others.
The Blockchain, according to McMurrain, is a new form of ledger that is digital, decentralized, and distributed online. “That means instead of a bank keeping one ledger that everyone else is forced to trust, a blockchain reveals every transaction to every fellow user on the network. This enables every user to validate every transaction made by every other user, making it impossible for anyone to simply make up a false entry that gives them more currency or pretend to pay an invoice while they actually pocket the cash,” he said.